Obama Wants "Balanced" Approach to Debt Deal, Republicans Give Him Balanced Budget Amendment


There was no vote on the Boehner debt limit plan in the House last night. Despite a day full of positive sentiments about the plan and an evening full of arm-twisting, Boehner couldn't muster the votes. So now he's adding balanced budget amendment trigger vote to the plan:

House Republican leaders plan to tie a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to their two-step debt-ceiling bill — a move that is turning momentum back toward Speaker John Boehner's plan.

Several GOP conservatives had held back their support for Boehner's bill because they wanted the balanced budget amendment provision included. It was the main point of contention in Thursday night's talks between GOP leaders and the holdouts.

The new provision would require a vote before the debt-ceiling could be raised for a second time in February.

That's right: February. Under Boehner's plan, the debt limit gets raised in two stages—half now, half later. So Congress would get to do this all over again next year. 

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  1. Submitting a balanced budget amendment to the states seems a small price to pay for a deal.

    After all, 38 states would need to approve a balanced-budget amendment, and this would require at least some degree of bipartisan consensus. If all the Democrats in the country unite against the amendment, it will probably be defeated at the state level – and the Democrats will be able to trumpet another “victory against Tea Party extremism.”

    So it sounds like a win-win. If its a bad amendment, the Dems (and the “moderate Republicans”) can block it at the state level – no harm done, and the vital task* of raising the debt ceiling will have been accomplished.

    *Assuming that raising the debt ceiling is a vital task.

  2. buzz buzz Constitutional Convention buzz buzz

    1. Not if we get a Super Congress(TM)! Super Congress(TM) will get things done! No more stalling or pointless debates! Just your obedient non-super Congressmen voting up or down (i.e., up) on the wise proposals of teh Super Congress(TM)!

  3. Also, this .. the rule’s committee chair dropped a copy of the Reid bill last night. from what i can tell, nobody really knows why.


    1. People know exactly why. If the Boehner bill fails, then 25+ Republicans will join the Democrats to try to pass Reid’s bill to avoid a default.

      1. that’s possible. but i don’t think that’s what it is. it’s likely a placeholder for some sort of TBD bill.

        1. Possible, but placeholder bills are a lot more useful in the Senate than in the House. (Senate Majority Leader ability to amend, getting around money bills originating in the House, etc.)

          It’s there as a backup– and as a threat of a backup to recalcitrant GOPers.

          1. House to vote on Reid tomorrow at 1pm. Looks like I was right.

    2. the rule’s committee chair dropped a copy of the Reid bill last night.

      I imagine this is much like my dog dropping a little something in the morning when I take him outside.

      1. …now flush it.

  4. So what’s the discussion about the weeklong sell-off in the stock market?

    I generally giddy with joy that there was a meltdown, as predicted, on Monday, but the market does seem a little antsy as the August 2 “deadline” approaches.

    1. there was no meltdown

      fixed it

    2. The downturn today is because of the horrible economic news: a dismal 1.3% growth for the quarter and last quarter revised downward to an even more pathetic 0.4%.

      1. Also keep in mind that China is on the verge of imploding under mal-investment and ever rising inflation.

        1. How can that be?

          Thomas Friedman has been continually instructing us on how superior their system is.

          Is it possible that he’s full of shit and doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about?

          1. Ask The Truth.

          2. I’ll take Full Of Shit for the win, Alex.

      2. I’d add that our markets have been jumpy/on edge with the ongoing drama in europe

      3. Notice that the numbers today were “unexpected”. Once again the experts were wrong. Yet some continue to listen to them.

  5. How can you have political expression freedom health if it doesn’t take months to get signs things government approved pharmaceuticals approved by petty municipal bureaucrats a balanced budget if it gets in the way of my version of society. Waiting to periods for guns, waiting periods for political lawn signs supplements extract more money from the productive to give to indolent system gamers is unacceptable…its all part of making life better for the people.

    1. Now I’m not sure if you’re the real Tony or someone mocking him.

      1. There’s a difference?

      2. Since I always say essentially the same thing about wanting my anthill like collective (I am the queen ant of course) I just thought I would put together a form letter of sorts that could be tweaked slightly for all reason.com threads. This works well because I hold no real positions except that I’m just the gosh darndest smartest guy around and you small minded libertarians are lucky to have me to show you the errors in philosophy.

  6. Anybody seen (or know if there even is) text for this amendment? Because the details really matter, and it could be done very badly if not structured right.

    1. ….and it could be done very badly if not structured right.

      I think you can count on this.

      1. Some guy and fish are both right.

        As always, the devil is in the details.

        1. Actually, I’m in the entrails.

        2. If “no law” doesn’t really mean “no law” why would a balanced budget amendment, no matter how well crafted, not require good faith on the part of Congress and the SCOTUS? That is, it will say what they say it says, regardless of structure and language.

          1. Exactly what I was thinking. Well said Sir.

          2. I can’t imagine how a balanced budget amendment could be enforced.

            Who would have standing to bring a lawsuit to overturn, what, the appropriations bills?

            What could a court do? Go through the appropriations bills and line item veto certain things? Order an across the board x% cut? Neither of those is really a judicial function.

            I think the whole BBA thing is just more dust in the eyes of the peasantry by the Master Class in DC.

            1. The amendment could grant standing – hell, I think it would have to grant standing to nip that little bit of subterfuge in the bud — and it could explicitly specify a method for cuts – again, maybe it needs a default method but one that can be overridden – but there’s no way it could pin down oily Congressmen or Justices who weren’t willing to submit to its limitations.

            2. yes judges cutting the budget is exactly what would be expected to happen.

              And they do that kind of thing all the time with private businesses. Many states have balanced budget restrictions, presumably they have a process for it.

            3. I can’t imagine how a balanced budget amendment could be enforced.

              Most states have them, and while there are certainly some accounting shenanigans, they pretty much work.

    2. Is this bill perfect? No ….

    3. Rules committee meeting around 1:00. that’s when they’re write it up.

      1. ugh. that’s when they will write the language.

  7. Under Boehner’s plan, the debt limit gets raised in two stages?half now, half later. So Congress would get to do this all over again next year.

    If they raise the debt ceiling it should be in the smallest possible increment. Is Suderman implying “It’s NOT FAIR to Obama!” ?

    1. If they raise the debt ceiling it should be in the smallest possible increment.

      A penny at a time. No other legislation.

      1. Ha! It would be the Congressional equivalent of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Just keep them passing bill after bill after bill until they drop….

      2. They measure parts of pennys, you know…

  8. Is this a real balanced budget amendment or a bogus one with everything big off budget?

    1. …..or a bogus one with everything big off budget?

      They don’t pass any other kind.

    2. We need a really scalable version of the software You Need a Budget.

      At the start of the fiscal year, Congress can plug in the amount of revenue from last year and they can all fight about how to allocate it into a zero-based budget. On CSPAN, because we know they want the process to be transparent.

    3. It’s a “Congress gets to decide what the BBA will be” bill.

      The BBA stuff is, sadly, sideshow. This bill cuts some spending for real, the rest is promises. It’s better than nothing, and default would be a disaster.

      Take a very tiny victory, then come back for more.

      1. default would be a disaster

        Yes, it would. Good thing we won’t default, regardless of how this whole ceiling kerfuffle turns out.

      2. you seem to be somehow assuming that somehow those other paths will not ultimately lead to a default.

        Our actual choices here seem to be:
        A. default.
        B. hyperinflation. plus default.

    4. Yes, a GAAP amendment would be more useful.

  9. I hope there isnt a time limit on passing the amendment so that we can wait 200 years if necessary, like with the congressional pay raise amendment.

    1. The Amendment itself isn’t in the bill. It’s instructions for Congress to come up with and pass an amendment.

      That clause is probably in there for the Senate to amend away, honestly.

    2. Seems like there isn’t. Or maybe I’m thinking Constitutional Conventions. A couple states have had an official resolution to convene a CC for years now and aren’t required to pass another.

  10. Why doesn’t someone step up and point out the obvious — it would be easier for Congress to just pass a balanced budget for FY2012 than to pass a balanced budget amendment. Raise the debt ceiling enough to get us to October and through FY2011, and then stop the overspending. Cut back to FY2006 levels, and the budget will be balanced with no new taxes.

    1. You must hate the children

      1. You must hate the children

        Yes! Each and every one of them

    2. Are you a monster? Old people will die in the streets and we will become like Somalia!

  11. Do we really care if this little experiment goes belly up? Sooner than later I mean! The trend for most of this century has been one of decline from a public policy standpoint. I’d rather try and pick up the pieces now as opposed to 10 years from now when I’m really fat and lazy.

    1. I’d prefer that it waits to fail until I get a house with some land for growing food. That’s all I’m asking for.

  12. BBA is a horrible idea for Republicans. They’d have to go through the whole process of repealing it once they take back control of government.

    1. BBA is a horrible idea for Republicans

      There now…Tony seeing it our way isn’t so hard.

      Isn’t the fact that it’s bad for the Repubs an excellent argument in its favor?

      1. It’s ridiculously bad policy, which is why they pretend to favor it.

        1. It’s ridiculously bad policy

          Well you heard it hear first folks. Tony thinks a balanced budget is bad policy.

          I do believe that game set and match my little statist friend.

          1. That’s why Tony hates Clinton. Clearly that balanced budget killed the economy.

    2. Which is exactly why a BBA would be great.

      Nothing else happened.

    3. BBA is a horrible idea for Republicans. They’d have to go through the whole process of repealing it once they take back control of government.

      Yes. That’s not an argument against it, though, especially not from you.

  13. It’s ridiculously bad policy….

    I hate to wield the red cape before your statist bull (hey that works on two levels….who knew I was such a wit?) but why is prudent fiscal policy bad again?

  14. Barry: we need to do something fast. I wouldn’t want the troops to starve in Afghanistan or have my grandma eating puppy chow.

    John: I know, but we need to do it really good.

    Harry: Nothing short of a blank check will do.

    Nancy: We need to revert to primitive tribalism or we’ll all die.

  15. “That’s right: February. Under Boehner’s plan, the debt limit gets raised in two stages?half now, half later. So Congress would get to do this all over again next year.”


    There’s no way Obama or the Democrats are going to be about cutting the budget after the next election.

    You know who wins adversarial negotiations?

    The party with the most leverage.

    Every time. Without exception. The more leverage we have on Obama and the Democrats, the more likely we are to truly address our overspending.

    I wish they had to vote to raise the debt ceiling quarterly. …’cause that’s leverage. The more leverage, the better.

    If all we had to constrain our budget problems were the Democrats sense of self-restraint? Then there would be no containing the budget ever.

    1. I was pretty much going to say something like this. If nothing else, this debate is at least forcing people to talk about the deficit. Why wouldn’t we want that more often rather than less?

      1. The Democrats in Congress wouldn’t cut spending at all if they didn’t have to.

        Before the last Congressional election, they were talking more stimulus!

        Forcing Congress to cut spending is not a bad thing. …watching market activity over the past few days–if there’s anything that’s going to hurt our economy over the long term? It isn’t missing a bond payment here or there–it’s spending more as a percentage of GDP than we can tax to cover given the current rate of consumption and unemployment.

        The market isn’t as worried about us making a bond payment late as they are about us breaking our bank. …and there ain’t no way the Democrats would cut spending if the Tea Party wasn’t holding their feet to the fire.

        It’s all about leverage! Don’t give away your leverage.

  16. A BBA would probably be filled with escape clauses to allow unbalanced budgets. Even if it were written to close all loopholes, it would probably be interpreted to allow “flexibility.”

    The more interesting possibility is the political effect if some kind of BBA rushed through the states and got approved. Pollsters would then tell the politicians that the public would be willing to accept some “sacrifices.”

    Even if ignored, a BBA would be a standing rebuke to Congress and fodder for political campaigns – not just, “you messed up the budget,” but “you violated the Constitution!”

    I wouldn’t trust the courts to enforce a BBA, but perhaps the voters might be emboldened to do so, and to use the amendment as a standard by which to measure candidates. Who knows?

    1. perhaps the voters might … use the amendment as a standard by which to measure candidates

      As opposed to, say, the Bill of Rights?

      1. Good example – Congress frequently violates the Bill of Rights even when it’s staring them in the face.

        But what would happen if the Bill of Rights were repealed and replaced with an amendment saying “Congress can abolish the rights of the people whenever they consider it expedient.” The situation would become worse. “Thank goodness, we don’t even have to *pretend* to worry about free speech or jury trial.”

        In other words, the same thing Congress has been accustomed to do in the absence of a balanced budget amendment.

  17. But Obama has a secret plan!

    1. “If you lay out a proposal … by yourself that’s extremely politically hard for your party, … it’s like putting a clay pigeon in the air,” Carney said.

      Well, that certainly clears it up for me.

  18. So Congress would get to do this all over again next year.

    You make that sound like a bad thing.

    If it were up to me congress should do this every month until the US stops spending more money then it receives in revenues.

    1. ^^I was thinking the same thing.

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